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Wow! This Is My House? Simple Renovations That Can Transform Any Home

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Bottom Line Personal
Original publication date
May 15, 2012
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Bottom Line Secrets
Wow! This Is My House? Simple Renovations That Can Transform Any Home

You might be surprised at how much you can change the character of your home—and make it much more attractive to potential buyers—without going broke doing it.

If you make changes that are popular with today’s buyers, your renovation won’t just provide you with a nicer home to live in—it will make the home easier to sell.

Here are eight renovations and modifications that you can enjoy now and that can help you sell your home in what remains very much a buyer’s market…

Add a full glass wall. Glass exterior walls provide three benefits that today’s buyers love—they bring in massive amounts of natural light…make the home feel more connected to the outdoors…and make a small room feel bigger.

Replacing a 12-to-14-foot wall with floor-to-ceiling windows that slide open will cost around $15,000. Adding nice curtains or blinds sufficient to cover this window wall could add several hundred or more to the price, depending on the materials selected. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but it really will turn the room into a distinctive selling point for the home.

Consider adding a patio and deck furniture right outside the sliding glass wall to create some outdoor living space. That’s like adding a room to your home without the relatively high costs of an addition.

Remove interior walls in the main living space. Today’s home buyers like open floor plans with good sight lines. Ripping out some of the walls that separate the kitchen, dining area and living room could make an old, cramped home seem significantly more modern and spacious.

Costs will vary greatly depending mainly on whether the walls removed are load-bearing walls. Pulling down nonload-bearing walls and patching and repainting the resulting gaps in the drywall, ceiling and floor could cost as little as $500 to $1,000.

Removing a load-bearing wall could cost well into the thousands—perhaps as much as $10,000—depending on the size of the wall and the amount of structural work required.

Warning: Consult a contractor or residential structural engineer before removing any walls unless you have access to the blueprints and are absolutely certain that the wall is not load-bearing.

Combine two bedrooms of modest size into a master bedroom suite. An impressive master bedroom suite featuring a big bedroom, spacious closets and a roomy master bath helps sell a home these days—more so than a large number of bedrooms. Perhaps that’s because couples are marrying later and having fewer children.

It typically costs just a few thousand dollars to convert two small adjacent bedrooms into one big one. However, prices could climb into the low five figures if the project includes adding a new bathroom or completely remodeling an existing bathroom and/or if a load-bearing wall is removed.

Turn a dining room into an office. Today’s home buyers don’t see much value in having multiple eating areas. If a home’s kitchen is large enough for a full-sized table, consider alternative uses for the dining room.

It could become part of an open floor plan, as discussed earlier, but another option is to convert the dining room into an office. This might be as simple as framing a door into an open dining room entryway, which should cost well under $1,000.

Warning: Some people turn their dining room into an extra bedroom, but having a bedroom right next to the kitchen usually is an awkward configuration. An office is more appropriate in this location. Buyers with big families still can use the office as a bedroom if they like.

Add built-in storage. Americans don’t like stowing their stuff in dank basements or hard-to-access attics. That’s one reason why many home buyers consider extensive built-in storage a big plus.

Woodworkers might charge tens of thousands of dollars to build custom cabinets, but there are more cost-effective options.

For example, Ikea’s wardrobe systems are well-designed, stylish and affordable. On the Ikea Web site (www.Ikea.com), select “Bedroom,” then “Bedroom storage” and finally “Wardrobes” to see the styles that are available. For a few thousand dollars, you can line an entire wall with these, then hire a drywall contractor for about $500 to add wallboard above and at the ends of the wardrobes so that they appear to be built-in components.

Add windows, skylights or solar light tubes to bring more natural light into dark rooms. Older homes often have less sunlight than today’s buyers like. Adding windows or skylights could be an option, depending on the layout of the home, but each one that you add could cost upward of $1,000, between the cost of the unit itself and the cost of professional installation.

Solar light tubes are a more affordable and versatile option. These use a small rooftop dome and reflective tube to pull a surprising amount of sunlight down into the house—even into interior rooms where adding windows and skylights is not feasible. From inside the room, these just look like overhead lights on the ceiling.

One light tube should be enough for a small room, though two or more might be needed in a large space. They can make a dark room sunny and bright for perhaps $500 or $600 apiece installed. Solatube is the nation’s leading provider (888-765-2882, www.Solatube.com).

Replace your kitchen countertop. Countertops are the single kitchen element most likely to influence a buyer’s opinion of the room. Granite and quartz countertops convey a sense of high-end quality—even though they have come down significantly in price in recent years.

Shop carefully, and you now can find these for as little as $3,500, including installation, assuming that your kitchen is of average size.

Adding impressive new countertops above old, worn kitchen cabinets won’t fool anyone, however. If your cabinets are showing some age but they still are in reasonable shape, you could paint them white and add attractive new hardware—big-box stores such as Walmart, Lowe’s and The Home Depot sometimes sell bags of attractive brushed nickel cabinet hardware for as little as $1 per piece.

If your kitchen cabinets are beyond basic rehab, new prefab cabinets of reasonable quality can be found at big-box stores for as little as $3,000 to $4,000 for a complete kitchen update.

Replace old bathroom vanities. The single most cost-effective way to make a bathroom seem more upscale is to install a vanity that has a granite or quartz top and dark-wood cabinets.

I’ve come across these for as little as $800 at Costco (www.Costco.com). Grab one if you see such a deal and the item seems right for your bathroom—that’s less than you would normally pay for the granite top alone, and these vanities tend to sell out fast.

Sources: Jonathan and Drew Scott, hosts of Property Brothers, an HGTV program about renovating fixer-uppers, Wednesdays at 9:00 pm EST. Jonathan is a licensed contractor…his twin brother, Drew, a real estate agent. Together they own Scott Real Estate Inc., which has offices in Las Vegas and Vancouver and Calgary, Canada. www.hgtv.com

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